Gender Roles Within the Philippines

By Joy Heinrich, University of Southern Mississippi

Did you know that the Philippines are split into three different regions? The three regions are called “Luzon, Visaya, and Mindanao.” These words that the average person can barely pronounce are found in Southeast Asia. The government is run by a president. In the history of the fourteen presidents, two have been women in which currently there is one in office. Corazon Cojuanco-Aquino was the first woman president to take office in 1986. Her husband was Senator Benigno Aquino in which he as assassinated years earlier after running for office against Ferdinand Marcos who was then the current president. “Two years later, Senator Benigno Aquino, Marcos’s rival in the political arena, broke his self-imposed exile in the United States and returned to the Philippines. After his plane landed at the Manila International Airport, Aquino, escorted by military men, was shot to death as he descended the stairs of the plane” (Astorga pg 570). This was a huge milestone in the Philippines because there were protests and to have a woman run for president, people did not know what to think. Interviewing my friend Donald Rico, who was born and lived in the Philippines until he was fifteen years old, talked about this story briefly and how it was a big deal a couple of years before he was born. Rico talked about gender differences and how the Philippines are a male’s world.

Gender roles in the Philippines are found in many different places; for instance, school systems, dating, marriage, and especially their families. There are several different elements that play a role in categorizing men and women into certain statuses among their gender roles. When Filipino’s are born they automatically are expected to assume a specific role. They are defined by their sex and then assume that gender role. Gender differences play a key part on what they are suppose to do as an individual of that sex and what they are not supposed to do. In a matter of speaking each gender has a set of social norms they follow. Males in retrospect get more respect because females take after their mothers and elder women to take less dominating roles, thus being more feminine in the jobs they choose to hold. The women are not always what we call frilly or girly, because they may be tom boys but they still have that less dominating role in their societie. Men on the other hand are categorized into the more dominating roles in society. Men are brought up to take after their fathers or the elder man in their life. They are defined as being more confident, accomplished, and well rounded individuals.

Currently, school systems are strict on students, especially males. Rico mentions the reality of how school systems are, compared to his experience here in the United States. He briefly stated how Filipino schools make their students look presentable, “Males must have short hair and females must wear skirts down to their shins. Dressing inappropriately is not tolerated.” The most interesting fact is how males and females go to the same location for school but they divide males and females into two separate parts of the school. Also for prom, the school assigns the date: for example, the school would line up the students from shortest to tallest and that person opposite is the date. Attending a college or university for the average person is highly unlikely because there is no financial aid available so only the wealthy go and receives the higher education. In all, education is very important to Filipinos and is stressed by their parents to have the best education possible to succeed to the top.

Dating in particular, is a crucial time for both families to get to know each other. It’s typical that the children do not date until they are eighteen because once again, education is the main priority in their lives until age eighteen. Usually the girl’s parents meet the guy in a meeting first before going out. The male of course pays for the date and Rico even said that on a friendship level, the male pays for the females. Rico wondered why he was always broke! Females on a date must never wear a skirt or shorts that are above the knee cap. Males really like their females to look presentable and classy.

Next, getting married is something that most people would like to experience in their lifetime in not only western countries but in the Philippines as well. The economic status determines the size of the wedding and the more money spent on the wedding, the better it looks toward the family. The male’s family pays for the cost of the entire wedding. What does a male not pay for? “Barong Tagalog” is what the male wears to the ceremony and the female wears the classic white dress. “Before marriage, the Filipino woman is considered special, such that the ‘dowry,’ which in European societies ordinarily refer to the bride’s parents giving presents to the groom, is just the opposite in this case. Dowry in the Philippines means a gift of the groom’s family to the bride” (Fulgado pg 2 ). Rico said “Once the family is married, they ride around town to let everybody know they are married now.” From his personal experience, he has seen his share of married couples ride around town.

Above all, family is the most important aspect of a lot of people’s life. Males and females have their roles of handling work and family life. Males are out working and making money for their family and highly insist their spouse taking any job. It is the male figure who takes care of the family and if he cannot provide, he is not doing his job. Females are required to stay at home and do the chores like cook and clean. The only time females have a job is when they work out in the rice fields or if they own a restaurant.

Another consideration to a family is the driving responsibilities. Males are the drivers and hardly will a female be out on the road according to Rico. When a family or a male owns a car, they are considered to be somewhat wealthy. Like many countries besides the United States, people take public transportation because it’s easier and cheaper to get around. Grandparents are to live with a son or daughter and their family because the elderly should not live by themselves especially if they have lost their spouse.” Children being obedient to their parent’s, is a key success in parents raising their children. Rico stressed to me that his parents were strict and they still are to this day especially being in college because it’s to further his education.

Overall, the Filipino culture is unique to learn about, especially gender roles. Gender differences are a key part of the Philippines today. Such as males being the dominate figure and women having a lower rank. Specific types of gender roles can be found in school systems, dating, marriage, and especially in the families. Males are considered free and females are kind of like slaves. The men have supreme dominance in the house hold. Even if the man was to lose his job the wife would not hold a job; because she would be taking away the husbands dominance in the house hold. The women have roles for cooking and cleaning instead of working superior jobs like in a business as a dominant figure.

When looking at why Filipinos like to go abroad you come to the conclusion, it’s because of education, and getting paid more money, especially for females. A domestic female worker was living in the United States from the Philippines and described why the Philippines were nice, but the United States is better for money. “Life is hard in the Philippines. You do not earn enough. [There], your work load is light, but you do not have any money. Here you make your money, but your body is exhausted.” (Parrenas pg. 151). Females living outside of the Philippines do better than being in the country so moving away is the best way to gain status and succeed in life.

Works Cited

Astorga, Ma. Christina A. “Historical Review” Culture, Religion, and Moral Vision: A

Theological discourse on the Filipino people power revolution of 1986. 2006 ed.

Fulgado, Carmencita Ques. “Heritage” The Filipino Women and Family Traditions. 1992 ed.

Parrenas, Rhacel Salazar. Servants of Globalization:Women, Migration, and Domestic Work.

California:Stanford University Press, 2001.


9 thoughts on “Gender Roles Within the Philippines

  1. Hi! I found this article particularly helpful in my research for a school paper.
    A bit of correction though, the second group of islands is called ‘Visayas’. 🙂

  2. I’m a Filipino myself, but in my point of view, the moment a child is born in the family, the social order of birth comes first rather than the gender. Though this thing applies mostly on the urban parts of the country. The rural areas tend to follow what you said where gender is more important.

  3. This paper is completely unapplicable to today’s society. It is outdated and irrelevant. Contrary to what is said here the Philippines has become Westernised and more modern with the changing times and has adapted ways of the changing times. No longer do women stay at home clean and cook, like in the fifties. They are out becoming successful business women and mothers at the same time. There may be some influence from the time when women were like this and it was a male dominated country however alot has changed and this paper is misleading must be re adressed. It would be beneficial if this article had a date as it would make more sense for the audience as t the suitable time period. I am also of Filippino background and have been to the Philippines numerous times. I am also currently writing a report on gender roles and am concerned of the misrepresentation of the Philippines in 2012.

  4. Filipino culture is strict when it comes to dating and marriage as far as gender norms go. Women aren’t supposed to court men at all nor pay for dates.

  5. I am concerned with the females acting as slaves and never get tp work and stay on the field or restaurant. I am a Filipina and as for the 1st hand experience here in the Philippine culture, you have expressed the wrong idea. Yes, Filipinas are living on that manner then during the Spanish colonization yet this writing is not applicable anymore. There are many Filipinas who have raised over the men and stood up as the bread winner of the family. Filipinas, just like in any other countries, they have theor right to a good and proper education and express theirselves in their chosen endeavors. It’s not only former president Cory Aquino who stood up as a the great women but many more. Even before her time, there were many Filipinas who have succeeded in their lives just like other men. And Marcos is not the current president of our country. President Benigno “NoyNoy” Aquino Jr. is our current president, offspring of former pres. Cory Aquino and ex-senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino. I think, asking your friend and a little citations from few references are not enough to put up a an article especial when you are talking about a culture or a part of culture of a certain place. I suggest that avoid being bias and subjective and be more professional in citing references to make your article or writing be more reliable and valid. Thanks! 🙂

  6. This article was written with little knowledge of Philippine culture. Such trivial details, including how names of islands cannot be pronounced by an average person make this essay look sloppy and amateur. Horribly written. Next time please do more than desk research.

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